Written by Michelle Rich January 12, 2016
In November 2014, the Iowa Afterschool Alliance (IAA) released its Iowa Afterschool Opportunities Directory, a data collection tool with a public interface that collects critical, voluntary information on afterschool program operations locally across the state. This data is voluntary and not all afterschool programs have chosen to participate. In July 2015, the IAA pulled data to compare operations of urban and rural programs. Instead of using assumptions to formulate supports to programs in different areas of the state, this analysis now shows the real picture of programs operating in urban and rural communities, making our support to programs much more responsive and appropriate to their needs.
What the data show is striking. Some previous assumptions are validated, while other findings are quite intriguing. For instance, the need for programming remains the same no matter the community; both urban and rural programs are operating, on average, 17 hours per week. We have also long known that rural programs are simply smaller due to lower populations. This was validated in the analysis; not only do urban programs operate more sites, they also serve double the number of students as rural programs.
Programs look slightly different based on the size of community in which its located. According to our data, more afterschool program sites are community-based in rural communities. Thirty-one percent of sites are community-based in rural programs versus only 13 percent for urban programs. Significantly more programs are run by faith-based organizations in rural communities than urban communities, based on our directory data (36 percent compared to 7 percent, respectively). And rural programs tend to have been around fewer years than their urban counterparts. Thirty-one percent of rural programs have been operating prior to 2000 compared to 63 percent in urban communities.
This analysis tells us a lot about the contrast between afterschool programs in the different communities across the state of Iowa, but also hones in on striking similarities among programs that call into question the significance of differences among communities when it comes to afterschool programming. The need for programs in all communities is clear. Across the state, Iowa has a large proportion of working parents. Basically, no matter where you’re from, kids need a place to go while parents work.
Similarly, no matter where you live, poverty makes children more likely to experience barriers to educational success; these are barriers that afterschool programs help to alleviate. Across the state, programs are more likely to serve younger students than older youth, when students of all ages benefit from afterschool programming. The likelihood of finding a program decreases as a child ages. This is the case across the state.
The bottom line is that while programs may look different based on the size of community, there is no less need or benefit based on community. No matter where a child is raised in Iowa, it is likely their parents will work outside the home. It is also an increasing likelihood that they will grow up in poverty, according to Iowa Kids Count. So no matter what a program looks like, there is no shortage of need for programming. There are considerations for our state leaders when discussing how best to support Iowa’s working families and our state’s students. No matter the community, children, youth, and families must have access to high quality learning opportunities outside of school.